This past spring the Sharks signed free agent defenseman Tom Preissing out of Colorado College, an undrafted and a relative unknown prospect to many NHL fans. Originally from Rosemount Minnesota, the 6’0” 205-pound ex-Tiger registered 23 goals and 29 assists for a total of 52 points last season. He was also a finalist for the coveted Hobey Baker Award given to the season’s top college player.
Even though Preissing did not win the Hobey Baker Award, he was named to Jofa NCAA First All-America Team while leading the nation in points among defensemen, outscoring other defensemen such as the Colorado Avalanche’s John-Michael Liles. The blueliner also led the nation in power play goals with 17 and was named WCHA Student Athlete of the Year while serving as Colorado College team captain.
Preissing has the speed to adequately play defense but also join the offensive play. Good all-around stick skills, mixed with speed, awareness, and leadership make Preissing a legitimate prospect to become one of the Sharks’ future power play quarterbacks. Although undrafted, the Sharks scouting department and general manager Doug Wilson deserve credit for securing a free agent prospect of Preissing’s skill and maturity.
At 25 years of age, he’s of the same age group as Sharks regulars Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan who have played 300+ NHL games each, and Preissing has nearly matched their poise and maturity on the ice so far this season. Averaging slightly over 18 minutes of ice time per game, Preissing has firmly established himself as San Jose’s fifth defenseman this season, ahead of fellow rookies Christian Ehrhoff and Rob Davison, as well second-year NHLer Jim Fahey, who is currently assigned to Cleveland of the AHL.
“[Preissing] doesn’t play like a rookie,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “He plays with the poise and maturity of an NHL player with four or five years of experience.”
Hockey’s Future recently sat down with the highly regarded Preissing.
HF: How did you get started in hockey?
TP: My dad played growing up, he was a decent player. I lived in Minnesota and it was definitely prevalent there, just something I wanted to do.
HF: What position did you start at in hockey?
TP: I played forward my whole life, I liked it a lot. It was a combination of things that didn’t allow me to keep playing forward. I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in [playing in the NHL] today if I was still playing forward.
HF: When you were young was there a player you modeled your game after?
TP: No one in particular, when you’re playing in the back yard or basement you always pretend to different players. There really wasn’t anyone that I really wanted, per se, to be like him.
HF: What about now as a defenseman is there anyone you want to model your play after?
TP: I try and learn from guys that play a similar game. I watch video tapes of guys and try and learn from them.
HF: What’s been the biggest impression the NHL has made on you, in this, your rookie season?
TP: Just being able to play with and against some of these guys I’ve been watching on TV and idolizing all my life –- it’s absolutely incredible every time I step in the ice.
HF: What’s the biggest change you’ve had to make in your game from college for NHL play?
TP: The biggest thing for me is always making the simple play. Anytime I try and do something beyond the simple play out here it gets shut down or there is a turnover or something. In college the simple play doesn’t get you very far, but here it’s more of the game plan and that’s what they expect out of me.
HF: What’s the part of your game that you’re working on?
TP: The biggest thing I need to work on is taking rushes and working on my gaps. It’s a work in progress for me. I’ve only been playing defense for about six or seven years. I still need to learn a lot, there are still situations I haven’t been in and I don’t have that memory recall to rely on.
HF: How do you like the San Jose area?
TP: You don’t get to see a lot of stuff with the schedule being so hectic. I really didn’t have a car out here for awhile. So far I like it out here.
HF: Do you have any roommates this season?
TP: I live down the hall from Rob Davison, I’m living on my own for the first time and really like it. Last year [at Colorado College] I had five guys living with me, it’s a little bit of a change in pace from that. I usually go out for pre-game meals, I like cooking [the other meals] during the day.
HF: What kind of stuff do you do in your down time?
TP: I do a fair bit of reading, right now I’m reading Cats Cradel, by Kurt Vonget. I’m kind of into a bit of an older kick right now. I’m not in school anymore I need to stimulate my brain somehow. When I’m here [at the arena] I play some video games, during the off season I like to play golf.
HF: What kind of music do you like?
TP: I don’t listen to music to get up for the game. I like music a lot. I’m kind of a mellow guy so I don’t really need to get too pumped up for a game. My favorite band is Rusted Root, it’s kind of an alternative band, not too many people have heard of them.